Each February, a winter migration takes place in Yosemite National Park where numerous nature enthusiasts and photographers gather to witness the natural wonder called “the firefall.” This event seems to attract a growing number of visitors every year.
To catch a glimpse of the stunning firefall phenomenon, it’s recommended to visit in mid-February when the Horsetail Fall is filled with water from winter storms. However, it’s important to note that the park now requires visitors to book ahead of time if they plan on attending during the popular Friday through Sunday firefall periods due to the event’s growing popularity.
For the “firefall” phenomenon to take place, a cloudless sky and ample snow to allow the waterfall to flow over the rocky structure are necessary. Any presence of haze or even slight cloudiness can significantly reduce or obliterate the effect, as mentioned on the park service website.
According to National Geographic, the renowned landscape photographer Ansel Adams took a photo of the waterfall in the 1940s, but it was only in black and white. It wasn’t until 1973 when National Geographic photographer Galen Rowell captured the first color image of the “firefall” phenomenon.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, El Capitan gets gradually cast in shadow from the west to the east during sunset in the Yosemite Valley. This results in a small strip of light left on the waterfall just before sundown, creating a beautiful contrast between the shimmering mist and somber rocks that gives the impression of the waterfall glowing.